From the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí to the sweeping vistas of the Catalan countryside, Barcelona is a city full of sensory delights.
But there’s far more to this vibrant metropolis than initially meets the eye. For locals and travellers alike, Barcelona is full of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path wonders that go far beyond the typical tourist traps.
Below, we’ve outlined a few bucket list items for every type of traveller who hopes to live like a local during their stay in this remarkable city.
WHAT TO DO
For couples: Couples who want to experience the “real” Barcelona can find a number of authentic activities that veer from the standard stroll down to la Sagrada Família. To delve into the heart of Catalan culture, a hands-on approach is key.
Start with the city’s world-renowned cuisine: At bcnKITCHEN, visitors can sign up for cooking classes (offered in both English and Spanish) to learn the art of local, traditional dishes like coca catalana and crema catalana.
For business travellers: Those staying in Barcelona for business may find inspiration at MADE, a flexible space for artists, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers and more. This creative co-working organisation hosts Open Monday Meetups for interested parties to drop in, explore the space, and mingle with resident entrepreneurs.
For families: Entertainment options in Barcelona go beyond correfoc, a traditional fireworks display — though these shows are highly recommended if you happen to be in town for any kind of Catalan festival. For a unique take on the city’s theatre scene, check out puppetry at Sala Fenix. The shows are primarily in Catalan and Spanish, so it’s an experience best reserved for families who speak a little of the local language.
Barcelona’s expansive beaches are also well worth a visit. For those seeking sandy beaches sans crowds, head to Playa de Llevant, Barcelona’s easternmost beach. Other less-touristic beach options include Platja del Bogatell, Nova Icaria, and Mar Bella.
For anyone on a budget: Market strolling is a quintessential Barcelona activity, and there are options to satisfy every budget. Bypass Boqueria to explore some of the local hot spots, like Els Encants Vells, the largest permanent flea market in town, which is accessible via the Glòries metro stop, or Sants Market, where locals swarm Montero, a lunchtime spot that specialises in menjars casolans (“homemade meals”) to go.
WHAT TO SEE
For couples: You may not know that some of the world’s top-rated vineyards are within an hour and a half drive from Barcelona, and nothing says romance quite like vino with a view. Go beyond the city limits for a day of wine tasting, vineyard touring, and soaking in the mountains, monasteries, and stunning nature that surrounds this metropolitan hotspot. Devour Barcelona offers a variety of options to choose from for day or half-day tours of Catalonia.
Or, stick around town, throw it back to the ’90s, and rent skates from Inercia. The company’s website offers a variety of ideas for roller activities around town, as well as information about local tours and classes for all levels.
For business travellers: Meandering through Gràcia, which has become one of Barcelona’s hippest neighbourhoods in recent years, will provide a peek into how the locals live. Along with a smattering of indie shops and architectural landmarks (such as Gaudí’s Casa Vicens and Park Gϋell), this area has a number of outdoor cafes with WiFi, so you can take a laptop and enjoy people watching. Onna Cafe has excellent coffee, plentiful electrical outlets, and a variety of delectable menu options.
For families: Skip the guided tours of Barcelona’s most heavily trodden tourist traps and opt instead for a comprehensive bike tour of this fabulous city. Steel Donkey Bike Tours offer a unique experience; no two tours are the same, and the group prides itself on discovering hidden hot spots that even locals may not know about.
For anyone on a budget: Get a feel for the gritty side of Barcelona with a free street art tour that will take you down the rabbit hole of some of the city’s most intriguing alternative culture. For a glimpse into comprehensive Catalan culture, it’s worth paying a visit to the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, which hosts talks, events, as well as a wide range of ever-evolving exhibitions.
WHERE TO DINE
For couples: A visit to Barcelona simply isn’t complete without a truly memorable meal. Such an experience is all but guaranteed at Etapes. Don’t be fooled by the restaurant’s small size: exquisite dishes like smoked sardines, bluefin tuna loin, and stuffed rabbit porchetta pack explosive Mediterranean flavour.
For a more laid-back meal, take the funicular up to Cafe Mirablau to enjoy delicious bites with a spectacular view.
For business travellers: Barcelona’s numerous art cafes are the perfect blend of boho ambiance and WiFi fuerte. Cosmo Cafe in Carrer Enric Granados is the ideal place to grab a bite and a natural juice while working from the cafe’s cozy sofas. It’s a particularly apt option for health-conscious, eco-conscious travellers. The majority of the menu’s ingredients come from local establishments within a 100 km radius.
For families: Skip the long lines at the restaurants and opt to pack a Catalan-style picnic complete with Iberian ham, local cheeses, and delicious breads and pastries. Picnic locations are plentiful, including any number of the city’s beautiful parks like Park Guinardó or the Tamarita Gardens, where you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon amongst the locals walking their dogs. These parks are a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.
For anyone on a budget: There’s no better way to experience a city’s culinary creative side than to sample the sensory smorgasbord of street food. At the Palo Alto Market, peruse local crafts and handmade goods alongside some of the city’s famed food trucks, which serve up any number of inventive delicacies.
WHERE TO PARTY
For couples: A stroll down the winding streets of El Born is the perfect way to set a romantic mood before an evening out on the town. Head to El Xampanyet for the local experience and an extensive wine menu — and prepare to get close amongst the crowds.
For business travellers: For an authentic experience that’s a great option for groups (not to mention a chance to relax from work-related stressors), score tickets to a local football match. Barcelona’s beloved team, FC Barcelona, plays at Camp Nou stadium, the largest stadium in Europe. Tickets may be tricky to come by, but visit the FC Barcelona website or Ticketmaster a few days before a game to search for seats.
For families: Parents and kids alike will have a blast at Tibidabo, Spain’s oldest running amusement park. The park has been around for more than a century, and it features more than 25 rides as well as stunning panoramic views.
For anyone on a budget: To take the evening up a notch, head to Espit Chupitos, a bar that specialises in unique shots. Each drink comes complete with a story, so be sure to inquire about the meaning behind the menu. A lively atmosphere, affordable drinks, and up-for-anything bartenders makes this place a hot spot for anyone looking for a night out on the town.
WHERE TO STAY
There’s more to Barcelona than meets the eye. Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s lesser-known wonders or get a taste of true Catalan culture, there’s a TRYP by Wyndham hotel to meet your needs. Located right in the middle of Barcelona’s vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and unique dining scene, TRYP by Wyndham hotels are perfect for any type of traveller.